THE PROBLEM OF THE 1■1 R FUEL OF THE FUTURE.
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Coal Distillates and Residues. By. the Editor.
A8 WE WRITE, it is exactly nine years ago since THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR first seriously dealt with the possibilities of using ,coal-gas as a fuel for internal-combustion engines of commercial vehicles. At that time, petrol was selling at about 1s.
a gallon and, taking into account the probable cost of compressing the gas into receptacles of suitable size, the two fuels. were virtually on a par in the matter of cost. It was during the next four years that the prices for petrol rose consistently, under the influences of a growing demand and the apparent coordination of supplying and distributing interests. During the years 1912-1914 a by-product of coking, benzole, seemed to present the most useful form in which coal distillates could be employed, the desire of those who Could see farther than most men being to secure a „Teat expansion of home-produced fuels not only for motor vehicles but for our Navy. It will be remembered that THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR and its associated journal "The Motor" carried out an active campaign in favour of benzole production, showing what had been accomplished in that direction and, moreover, what could be accomplished if encourage
ment could be given' and it is interesting to recall that a proposal that home-produced fuels of this character should, in order to encourage their development, be allowed to be sold duty free during the period' of development, was deliberately rejected by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer.
However, the war has done for home-produced fuel that which may have required ten years of peace-time agitation, for benzole and toluol have proved valuable raw materials for high explosives, and plant has been developed which is going to give us, after the , war, a large output of those spirits, provided that outlets can be obtained for the other products of coking, namely, gas, tar oils. and coke.
We say that the commercial road transport can materially help to consume these products—the ben zole, the tar oils, the coke and the gas. With regard to the benzole and the gas no arguments need, at this late day, be put forward. Thesr method of use is familiar to every one. Of taroils, it may be re marked (and it will be recalled that we have on more than one occasion pointed to the possibilities of this fuel) that no difficulty seems to arise in their use provided the inherent difficulties attaching thereto are overcome in the correct design of 'vaporizer.
Coke presents more than one possibility because it is quite a useful fuel for coke-fired steamers, whilst suction or producer gas may be made from it either in a stationary plant for compression inter cylinders or, as a. probable later development, in a small plant carried on the vehicle itself feeding the gas fuel direct to the engine through a receiver to ensure a, regular flow. In July, 1916, we said that the time had come to use gas, not only because it was then available (and continued to be available gener ally down to a couple of months ago), but because it was in the national interest thaf every gallon of liquid fuel that could be ■saved by its means should be saved. It was difficult to get everybody who could have helped to save the precious fuel to give rein to their imagination and to see eye to eye with us, particularly the motor Press, where hostility to the notion was actually shown. But the situa
tion rapidly became serious in 19117 and, then (as we thought and still think) late in.the day, the gas movement went ahead by leaps and bounds. Had our preaching fallen on ears more receptive, the number of vehicles equipped to use gas would, to-day, be
vastly greater but, more than that, whilst it was still possible to do something in that direction, gas plants would have been extended to meet the demand for gas, and it is quite possible that certain developmentsat pit
heads. would have taken place which would now be giving a fairly large quantity of gas available for
motor transport—gas, moreover, to which motor transport would have first claim, because it would have been the cause of the development of this particular source of supply.
The keynotes of our campaign were : first, to enable the essential commercial motor transport of the country to be maintained; second, to secure economy in imported and home-producedliquid fuels in the interests of the Navy, Army and Air Force, and, third, to encourage in every possible way, the development of home-produced fuels, in order to save shipping and to render the country less dependent now and in the future on imported spirit and oil.
That which served to convince the Government and -the public of the practicability of using coal-gas for road traction pfirposes and to encourage the newlyrisen industry to prosecute its endeavours was the demonstration of gas-propelled vehicles held at Messrs, Thornycroft's Garage on 10th October last. From that day the car equipped with a gas container has become no more a matter of remark than the bicycle with its pneumatic tyre, the private motorcar with its spider-like wire wheel, or the 3-ton lorry with its lengthy aeroplane-carrying trailer.
Utility quickly overcomes the prejudice created by the sight of the 'unusual and, for that reason, we believe 'that the roof-borne gas container will for a long lime be a common object of the highway. It possesses the merits of simplicity, cheap . ness„ and ease of refilling, and it is entirely suitable for, certain vehicles, uses, and classes of business.
However, the more advanced application of gas to the internal-combustion-engined vehicle, is by compression into suitable containers, and although we think that the whole of the conditions attaching to the Offer of Z1000 as a prize by the Automobile Association rendee the prize money fairly safe, we fully believe that, before six months have passed., we shall be able to announce the production of a gas container to hold the equivalent of a gallon of petrol, involving a weight of material not exceeding 56 lb., and occupying no more space than that below the driver's seat of a lorry. As to cost, we beg to be excused from advancing an estimate at this juncture ! Having this faith (and, being prepared to profess it in cold pxint so as to give it permanent form would imply that We believe that even better will be accomplished), we say that gas, as a fuel for road traction, has a definite and certain future, and that it will be a serious and useful competitor with imported motor spirit. For this reason we wish the Gas Traction Committee success in the further prosecution of its inquiries and in the experiments which it proposes to undertake.